It is an oolong tea called Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) and is from Wuyi China. In 2004, about 2/3 oz. sold for about $21,000 (about $200/cup today). The original Da Hong Pao tea trees and are over 350 years old. This tea was available by public auction only 3 times. Usually it is only available to top leaders. It is also known as the most expensive tea in the world.
President Nixon was given 50 grams in 1972 during a visit to China. He at first was insulted by such a small gift until someone told him that 50 grams was about 50% of all the Da Hong Pao tea harvested that year.
There are only 3 of the original trees left. Every year when the tea is harvested from these trees, a portion goes to the president of China and the rest goes to public auction.
There are now available genetic clones of the tea that come from trees made from cuttings of the original trees. This makes secondary Da Hong Pao tea more readily available at a more affordable price for consumers. Beware of sellers claiming that their tea is from the original trees. You most likely won’t be able to afford it.
So where do the pandas come in? Pandas don’t absorb much of the nutrients they eat (only about 30%) so the rest is evacuated. Their dung is used as a fertilizer for the tea leaves.
Jody Victor isn’t so sure he want to try this too soon!